Some time ago, I wrote about a friend – the tenant of a rip-off landlady, who overcharged and ‘included’ the council tax that students do not pay, aware my friend was from overseas. Here’s what happened next.
After moving out, my friend searched for a reasonably priced flat available for roughly six months. There wasn’t much around, but finally she found a place suiting her budget and desired location. Having met the landlord a few times, she noticed that he seemed jumpy about how she would afford the rent, asking for bank statements, and requiring several interviews. He asked a lot of questions and needed unsettling levels of reassurance.
He clearly liked the fact that my friend comes from a far-off land, and revealed what (with hindsight) now seems a sinister reason for being pleased his previous tenant had left, saying: ‘…she wouldn’t let me in the flat.’
Now her landlord has been calling round. A lot (and I mean a lot.) He gives advance notice; is affable and polite but spends hours completing simple tasks, like moving a mat (!) She is starting to worry, and has asked him to knock first rather than marching straight in at the pre-arranged time (he has his own key.) She is also realising why the previous tenant ‘wouldn’t let him in.’
The rent is reasonable, the place is nice enough. But the landlord is making more and more excuses to come round – usually to collect his post, which he doesn’t want forwarded (always a bad sign.) I shared my suspicions: she’s innocently but illegally subletting a Housing Association flat. At worst, her landlord might be claiming Housing Benefit from her address: that’s why rent is ‘bills inclusive’ including council tax, and why he is so keen on overseas tenants.
There’s been a lot of coverage about social housing and unauthorised subletting. Offenders are destined to feel heavy Condem wrath (more so than rip-off letting agents and the rare but appalling rogue landlords.) Meanwhile, my friend finds herself in an extremely dubious situation, as no matter what she’s signed, she has no legal right to remain. If the Housing Association get wise to her landlord, I suspect she’ll be evicted (but when her visa expires she’ll be leaving anyhow.)
Just another colourful aspect of the rich and boundless tapestry that underpinning the wonderful world of renting, says you. But while it’s unlikely that my friend will be unceremoniously turfed out, what happens to the next tenant?
I also understand why her landlord wants to hold onto ‘his’ flat. Council or housing association properties are scarce and once in, beneficiaries fight to stay. Unfortunately, the resultant subletting distorts waiting lists, as landlords choose tenants on the basis of those best able to stay incognito rather than by need and vulnerability.
My friend is on extremely shaky ground, but so is her landlord, should he be discovered. He’s still coming round all the time, by the way, and my friend now has a justifiably dim view of renting in the UK, but she’s hardly alone with that. Big stories about rogue landlords make the news, but it’s low level misery like this that is so debilitating.